Environment workers’ body camera first
TRIAL AFTER COMES ONE WORKER IS THREATENED ON THE JOB
IN a UK first, Environment Agency enforcement officers in the North East are now using body-worn cameras.
The six-month pilot scheme comes after one of its employees in this region, Paul Whitehill, was threatened with violence when he and a colleague attended an illegal waste site on a routine visit.
Paul, an ex-policeman, said: “I worked with body cameras in the police and saw how effective they can be so suggested we run a trial.”
The trial is aimed at assessing if they can help reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour, assaults and threats against staff, particularly those working with regulated and illegal waste sites.
Rachael Caldwell from the EA’s waste and enforcement department, said the environment that staff work in had become increasingly hostile as “more criminals have come into the waste industry”.
Since 2001, the Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted 59 cases of obstruction, hostility or threatening behaviour towards staff, 22 of which were in the North East.
Rachael said: “The safety of our staff is paramount. They are well trained in dealing with hostile situations and we take any threat against them very seriously. But our preference is to prevent hostility in the first place.”
Studies show that people are less likely to contest evidence when they know their offence is captured on camera. This could help speed up justice and reduce legal costs.
If successful, body-worn cameras, which are now the norm among many enforcement agencies, could be rolled out to Environment Agency teams across the country. They could be used in a variety of ways, including at visits to poorly performing sites, illegal waste sites, during fisheries and navigation patrols and even during incident response. Since the trial started in April, waste enforcement and fisheries officers have been wearing the devices during their routine activities and activate them if they encounter a hostile situation or site. Already officers have reported that wearing the cameras has prevented threatening situations from escalating. Those taking part in the pilot must follow guidelines on use of these cameras. They will not be permanently switched on and people will be informed if they are being filmed. If they are used, the footage is automatically deleted after a month unless it is required for evidential purposes. “Officers will switch the cameras on only if and when they enter a hostile situation,” Rachael said. “That could be a site where they have experienced aggressive behaviour in the past, or an unknown quantity where hostility may be anticipated, such as on a remote riverbank.” The trial is led by the Environment Agency’s Enforcement Technical Services division. Officers are also evaluating whether the cameras help speed up investigations, reduce challenges in court and reduce complaints about officers.
Officers will switch the cameras on only if and when they enter a hostile situation Rachael Caldwell
The Environment Agency has started a body-worn camera pilot scheme